Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Paging Andrew Sullivan!

As you dear readers must know, I happen to like Andrew Sullivan, as I link to him on my very blog site. (see: "links") R.J. Escrow wrote a post about Andrew Sullivan on Huffington Post - Alan Dershowitz, Christopher Hitchens, and him with Bill Bennett and Ann Coulter. He went on to say this about Andrew Sullivan et. al.: The more the Muslim countries hate and fear us, the less likely they are to accept democratic initiatives from us. That means that thoughtless conservative Muslim-bashers like Ann Coulter, Christopher Hitchens and Andrew Sullivan aren't just spreading bigotry when they seek to inflame tensions between the West and ordinary Muslims - they're harming our national security. "Thoughtless conservative Muslim bashers." Does R.J. Escrow actually read Andrew Sullivan? Does he actually read Christopher Hitchens, or Alan Dershowitz's writing? I will agree Ann Coulter is flat out hysterical and is a thoughtless conservative Muslim-basher. As I stated previously, Ann Coulter actually stated, and I quote: "Perhaps we could put aside our national, ongoing, post-9/11 Muslim butt-kissing contest and get on with the business at hand: Bombing Syria back to the stone age." But to equate Andrew Sullivan, Alan Dershowitz, and Christopher Hitchens with such filth is to say that criticism of the Muslim world and a vigorous support for free speech somehow means a person is a "thoughtless conservative Muslim basher." Gee, isn't that as bad as the GOP equating any dissent as unpatriotic? So let's collectively examine some of the writings of the three writers I contend make very spirited and thoughtful contributions to the world and he claims are "Muslim bashers." Andrew Sullivan
The people of Eastern Europe may have a better grasp on the value of freedom than their fellows in the West or even in America, where so many of us take it for granted. Here's a perceptive piece from the Czech Republic on some of the fast disappearing illusions of many of us Westerners:

"The purple elephant in the middle of this crossfire is the contemporary notion — or, more accurately, the Western one — that the values of most Islamic societies have modernized along with the rest of the world. The unraveling of the Iron Curtain revealed former enemies who, despite cultural differences, retained essentially the same values: a passion for freedom, mutual respect and at least a capacity to coexist with dissimilar viewpoints.

But the unexpected commonality between those nations could not have been brought into sharper focus than by the rise of global Islamic fundamentalism.

The West has naively greeted this scorpion with its Cold War handshake, believing that the virtues of peace and democracy appear self-evident; as if good intentions, by definition, will be good enough. But even the mainstream Islamic mindset has proven inscrutable to the West in a way that communism was mythologized to be but never truly was.

To many Islamic nations, freedom is not a tonic, but a toxin; it's regarded not just as something that permits a challenge to faith, but is a challenge to faith by itself."

And there are some fundamentalists in America who feel the same way.

Andrew Sullivan is also a vigorous defender of human rights against torture.

Yesterday, James Taranto took yet another dig at my early attitude to reports of "poor treatment" of terrorist captives. In January 2002 and for a while thereafter, I somewhat summarily dismissed reports of mistreatment of detainees as probably enemy propaganda and certainly not something that should worry us too much:

  • These terrorists are not soldiers. They are beneath such an honorific. They are not even criminals. In that respect, Dick Cheney's and Donald Rumsfeld's contempt for the whines of those complaining about poor treatment is fully justified.

I'm not proud of those sentences, but they rested on a basic level of trust that of course enemy combatants might be treated roughly, but would not be subject to systematic abuse, torture or beatings. This was the American military. This was the Bush administration, people I trusted. I had no idea - and perhaps I should be held responsible for my naivete - that memos were being written allowing for torture and abuse to occur under the legal cover of a president's wartime authority. Abu Ghraib had not yet been exposed. The hundreds of incidents of abuse, the dozens of prisoners who died while in captivity, the smaller number who have indeed been confirmed as tortured to death: these facts I did not then know. But after Abu Ghraib, I obviously changed my tune. If that could happen, I worried about what else could have occurred. I read the record. I explored the evidence. I came to a different conclusion. The facts available to me changed; and so I changed my mind. Why is that open process to be mocked? When you blog half a million words a year, and you do so for five years, and you use the blog form as a way to think out loud, the notion that your views will remain identical throughout strikes me as preposterous. When the facts available to me change, I change my mind. But then I guess I'm not James Taranto.

Oh right...this really represents someone who, according to R.J. Escrow, is a "conservative Muslim basher." Next on his supposed list of conservative Muslim bashers...Christopher Hitchens.

Christopher Hitchens

The incredible thing about the ongoing Kristallnacht against Denmark (and in some places, against the embassies and citizens of any Scandinavian or even European Union nation) is that it has resulted in, not opprobrium for the religion that perpetrates and excuses it, but increased respectability! A small democratic country with an open society, a system of confessional pluralism, and a free press has been subjected to a fantastic, incredible, organized campaign of lies and hatred and violence, extending to one of the gravest imaginable breaches of international law and civility: the violation of diplomatic immunity. And nobody in authority can be found to state the obvious and the necessary—that we stand with the Danes against this defamation and blackmail and sabotage. Instead, all compassion and concern is apparently to be expended upon those who lit the powder trail, and who yell and scream for joy as the embassies of democracies are put to the torch in the capital cities of miserable, fly-blown dictatorships. Let's be sure we haven't hurt the vandals' feelings.

You wish to say that it was instead a small newspaper in Copenhagen that lit the trail? What abject masochism and nonsense. It was the arrogant Danish mullahs who patiently hawked those cartoons around the world (yes, don't worry, they are allowed to exhibit them as much as they like) until they finally provoked a vicious response against the economy and society of their host country. For good measure, they included a cartoon that had never been published in Denmark or anywhere else. It showed the Prophet Mohammed as a pig, and may or may not have been sent to a Danish mullah by an anonymous ill-wisher. The hypocrisy here is shameful, nauseating, unpardonable. The original proscription against any portrayal of the prophet—not that this appears to be absolute—was superficially praiseworthy because it was intended as a safeguard against idolatry and the worship of images. But now see how this principle is negated. A rumor of a cartoon in a faraway country is enough to turn the very name Mohammed into a fetish-object and an excuse for barbaric conduct. As I write this, the death toll is well over 30 and—guess what?—a mullah in Pakistan has offered $1 million and a car as a bribe for the murder of "the cartoonist." This incitement will go unpunished and most probably unrebuked.

Could things become any more sordid and cynical? By all means. In a mindless attempt at a tu quoque, various Islamist groups and regimes have dug deep into their sense of wit and irony and proposed a trade-off. You make fun of "our" prophet and we will deny "your" Holocaust. Even if there were any equivalence, and Jewish mobs were now engaged in trashing Muslim shops and embassies, it would feel degrading even to engage with such a low and cheap stunt. I suppose that one should be grateful that the Shoah is only to be denied rather than, as in some Islamist propaganda, enthusiastically affirmed and set out as a model for emulation. But only a moral cretin thinks that anti-Semitism is a threat only to Jews. The memory of the Third Reich is very vivid in Europe precisely because a racist German regime also succeeded in slaughtering millions of non-Jews, including countless Germans, under the demented pretext of extirpating a nonexistent Jewish conspiracy. As it happens, I am one of the few people to have publicly defended David Irving's right to publish, and I think it outrageous that he is in prison in Austria for expressing his opinions. But my attachment to free speech is at least absolute and consistent. Those who incite murder and arson, or who silkily justify it, are incapable of rising above the childish glee that culminates in the assertion that two wrongs make a right.

Wow, all he does is pretty much state facts, there! If Hitch is supposedly "Muslim bashing" by writing this, then I guess any critique of Islam is "Muslim bashing"? And he doesn't selectively decide to believe in freedom of speech. Hitchens is a defender of civil liberties, and he is also against hate speech laws that restrict anti-semitic comments. Furthermore, he joined a suit against the government over wiretapping.

In short, he is a civil libertarian that does not like being told what he can and cannot say (barring incitements to violence, defamation, and lies), and what can and cannot be said about Islam. Does that make him a "Muslim basher"? I think not. Go read his writings yourself, and you decide.

Alan Dershowitz

Before I even get into Dersh, I want to state that Dersh famously said to Alan Keyes, and I quote:

I accuse you of BIGOTRY, and I defend your right to that bigotry, but I do not defend your right to impose the bigotry on others.

This has consistentlyl been Dersh's viewpoint. So it is with a skeptical eye that we shall review Escrow's so-called "proof" that Dersh is a "Muslim hater." Here is what R.J. Escrow had to say about Dersh et. al.:

Dershowitz joins self-righteous gambling addict Bill Bennett in lecturing the US press because they haven't printed the offending cartoons (following in the tracks of fellow Muslim loathers Christopher Hitchens and Andrew Sullivan).

So he is mad that the press is being lectured to print the cartoons? That makes him a Muslim hater? Surely you can do better.

Dershowitz can't wait to torture them - hence his self-imposed exile from civilized company. After all, that's not what civilized nations do. (Gandhi's experience with beatings and torture might have prompted his response when asked during a trip to England what he thought of "Western civilization": He said, "I think it would be a good idea.")

Okay, excuse me, but Dersh NEVER said he advocated torture. In his own article on HuffPost, titled "Dershowitz Opposes Torture," Dersh stated, and I quote:

I am against torture as a normative matter, and I would like to see its use minimized. I believe that at least moderate forms of nonlethal torture are in fact being used by the United States and some of its allies today. I think that if we ever confronted an actual case of imminent mass terrorism that could be prevented by the infliction of torture, we would use torture (even lethal torture) and the public would favor its use….

I pose the issue as follows. If torture is, in fact, being used and/or would, in fact, be used in an actual ticking bomb terrorist case, would it be normatively better or worse to have such torture regulated by some kind of warrant, with accountability, recordkeeping, standards and limitations? This is an important debate, and a one from the old, abstract Benthamite debate over whether torture can ever be justified. It is not so much about the substantive issue of torture as it is about accountability, visibility, and candor in a democracy that is confronting a choice of evils.

Dersh went on, later in the article to state, and I quote:

My proposal for a torture warrant is certainly controversial and there are good arguments on the other side. That issue should be debated on the merits, but no honest person can accuse me of supporting torture. Yet the accusation persists among those determined to distort my position.

Seems very clear to me. Oh yeah, what a horrible Muslim hater! *rolls eyes*

Escrow went on to say that somehow these writers only focus on the negative aspects of Islam, and never the positive.

So let's have some fun with numbers. If 30,000 Muslims have rioted (probably a high number, but if you've got a more accurate one let's hear it), that's 0.000023% of all Muslims, or one Muslim out of every 43,000 worldwide. The frequency of reported rapes in the US suggests that an American is one hundred times more likely to be a rapist than a Muslim is to be a cartoon rioter.

Okay, um, Escrow, hun, firstly, that appears to be an awfully small number. I have seen thousands and thousands of Muslims rioting across the world. Imans have called for the death of the cartoonists, and it was famously stated "there can be no overreaction." The Iranian president denied the Holocaust, and I have yet to see ONE Muslim of prominance, other than Irshad Manji, say there was an affirmative right to criticize Islam. (which, um, there is!) The best I have seen by the "moderate" Muslims are statements against violence, but also saying it was blasphemy to publish the cartoons to begin with. Salman Rushdie is still in hiding, and Pim Fortuyn and Theo Van Gogh are still dead. This does not even address people like Deeyah, who have death threats when they speak out against the religion. Is it "Muslim hate" to be pointing this out? I mean, Sully, Hitch, and Hersh are also the first to criticize extremism in religions across the board. I have read extensive statements against the way the Christian right conduct themselves in America.

THAT SAID! Andrew Sullivan is the first one to post about moderate Islam. In fact, I learned about the protests against violence in Britain from...you guessed it...Andrew Sullivan.

But he's a Muslim hater, right?

R.J. Escrow hates free thought, and free expression. He is a hater of the truth. Yes, indeed it is Escrow who is the real hater of the bunch.


Derek W. said...

Re: Coulter--I like the woman, I think she's hilarious at times and definitely a good writer, I like her lack of political correctness, and I agree with most of what she says.

Having said that, I can't believe how wrong she is on everything related to the war in Iraq and our foreign policy. It's pretty appalling when you think about it.

Jason H. Bowden said...

Miss R--

You've made your case well.

Derek --

Ann Coulter does conservatives more harm than good. Her schtick is like bad guy wrestling. Given there are excellent conservative thinkers out there like Victor Davis Hanson, Dinesh D'Souza, and Roger Scruton, I'm astonished Coulter's bomb throwing Jerry Springer-like act gets so much attention.

Keone Michaels said...

Re: Ms. Coulter. She is a cartoonist's dream because everything about her including her appearance is like a cartoon. I visualize her as a looong necked swan in the Republican zoo.

EnterCenter said...

I can't believe that some of the people who have responded to this post like Ann Coulter. Why? We all are entitled to like whomever we want, but I, after assaying the reasons why a person likes another, find myself coming up short with reasons as to why one would like - i.e. feel affection - for - this person. (Again, though - I am not the thought police).

Is she liked because she said, right after September 11th, "Let's invade all of the Muslim countries, kill their leaders, and convert their citizens to Christianity" Or because she said that Timothy McVeigh should have blown up the New York Times building (the NY Times supported her war)? Or because she says things like "liberals love American like OJ loved Nicole?" (you don't need to be a liberal - i.e. anyone who doesn't agree with exactly everything Ann says - to find that statement repugnant).

Is she liked because of her "bluntness"? Political "incorrectness" for its own sake has no normative value, any more than political correctness does. Either Ann's whole act exists solely to inflame (and it works, as is evidenced by the fact that we are talking about her), or the act IS an act (why would someone put on such a hateful act, and go on record as saying, "The entire right wing movement in this country is founded on one thing - hate - and we shall win!")

She can be a good writer, and can be funny - and one can agree with her political philosophy - but when the message is delivered in as vile a manner as possible, who would want to listen to the messenger?

Victor Davis Hanson, like other NRO writers, likes throwing labels around a lot, likes torture, sees everything in black and white, agrees with the President on mostly everything. This is fine, if you are amenable to these viewpoints. I prefer more independent conservative viewpoints like those of George Will and William F. Buckley who are not mouthpieces for whatever Republican president is in power.

Dinesh D'Souza's big claim to fame is that racism no longer exists. I don't know if, for him, whether this claim is precatory or a statement or reality, but I for one would not be so presumptuous as to devote an entire book for the purpose of making such a sweeping pronouncement on such an inherently unquantifiable matter as the level of racial animosity between and among Americans.

The author to which Miss R responded said:

"The more the Muslim countries hate and fear us, the less likely they are to accept democratic initiatives from us. That means that thoughtless conservative Muslim-bashers like Ann Coulter, Christopher Hitchens and Andrew Sullivan aren't just spreading bigotry when they seek to inflame tensions between the West and ordinary Muslims - they're harming our national security."

Oh, please. Where is the empirical (as opposed to rhetorical) evidence that these men have done anything to harm that wonderfully amorphous term "national security"? To make such a claim implies that Muslim countries a) want to accept democratic initiatives from us; b) "ordinary Muslims" (whatever that means) have "regular access" to the writings of these men, and that c) these "ordinary Muslims" draw the same conclusions about these writings as the author does. Quite a set of assumptions.
The author's thesis is classic Yoda-babble: "Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering (i.e. death)." Missing from this pithy chain of logic is any evidence that those whom the author believe are the intended recipients of the allegedly bigoted statements (the statements are not bigoted, sans Coulter's) actually presume that Hitchens and Sullivan "speak" for American. Since our author doesn't make this presumption, why is he so certain that ordinary Muslims will? Perhaps because - no! - he is making generalizations about how such people process information (i.e. he is suggesting that such angry people will only pay attention to such allegedly hateful statements, and will only respond by attacking our national security?) No! Can't be!

The author ends up ascribing the traits to "ordinary Muslims" - i.e. that they are hateful angry savages. Ironically, though, he calls Sullivan et. al "bigots" for allegedly making the very same ascriptions. Political correctness run amok.